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The Great Gallery showcases many familiar artworks including Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier, Rubens’ The Rainbow Landscape, Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time and Velázquez’ The Lady with a Fan.

Described as “the greatest picture gallery in Europe” by art historian Kenneth Clark, the Great Gallery was built by Sir Richard Wallace between 1872-5. 

The gallery had been subject to many alterations since the 19th century, the boldest being the introduction of air conditioning in the 1970s, which blocked out natural light. The gallery arrangement became dominated by large air grilles with artificial lighting. The gallery's overall appearance became dated and the finishes, particularly the wall fabric, faded.

Our brief was to reconfigure the environmental control while reducing its visual impact, re-introduce conservation controlled natural daylighting and re-present the gallery.

The gallery was reconstructed within the retained external walls and reused the roof’s original iron structure.  

Purcell referenced the ceiling’s original coved form with its delicate trellis plasterwork ornamentation and Pompeian red silk for the walls was specially woven to a historically appropriate pattern. 

Construction work was carried out while the building remained open to the public.

The new ceiling reintroduces natural daylight, which is controlled by sensors and automatic blinds. 

The completed scheme minimises the visual impact of the environmental control equipment and introduces conservation-contolled LED. Ventilation extract is handled through the reveals of oculi windows.

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